Carter Hart has his new contract.
On Monday, the Flyers' goalie of the present and future signed a three-year deal with an average annual value of $3.979 million. Hart, who will celebrate his 23rd birthday Friday, was a restricted free agent and coming off of his entry-level deal. He'll be a restricted free agent when his new contract expires in the 2024 offseason.
After two impressive seasons to begin his NHL career, Hart struggled in the coronavirus-impacted 2020-21 campaign. He went 9-11-5 with a 3.67 goals-against average and .877 save percentage. The organization has remained high on his future and status as the club's No. 1 goalie.
“You kind of go home and you're just in your own thoughts the whole time because you’re just sitting in your apartment alone," Hart said in May at his end-of-the-season press conference. "Things were a lot better at the end, I was feeling a lot happier and hanging out with the boys more, and I think that that was kind of a big part of my play toward the end was just enjoying the game more and being more grateful for where I am. I mean, I’m in the NHL, I’m in the best league in the world. So instead of dwelling on other things, shifting my focus toward being more grateful.”
At 20 years old, Hart was summoned to the Flyers during the calamitous 2018-19 season in which the club played eight goalies. The 2016 second-round pick ended up making 30 starts and recorded eight straight victories during one stretch to match Jocelyn Thibault's NHL record of most consecutive wins by a goalie before his 21st birthday.
The following year, Hart finished the regular season 24-13-3 with a 2.42 goals-against average and .914 save percentage. He then went 9-5-0 in the playoffs with a 2.23 goals-against average and .926 save percentage.
Last year, the Flyers saw an ugly combination spiral into a letdown, playoff-less season. The Flyers were porous in front of their goalies, while the netminders didn't help, either. It resulted in the Flyers allowing the NHL's most goals per game (3.52) and sporting the league's worst save percentage (.883).
The season was a grind both mentally and physically for Hart, who shared the age of many college seniors. Following a March 9 start in which he was pulled for the third time of the season, Hart said things were "sh---y" and he didn't feel like himself. The club had him go through a mini, practice-oriented reset at the end of March and into early April. Hart went 1-2-2 with a 2.31 goals-against average and .910 save percentage over his final five starts, but was shut down for the Flyers' final 13 games because of an MCL sprain in his left knee.
"Our goaltending numbers weren't very good, our team defense wasn't very good," Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher said last month. "But really, it started up the ice — it was a full team effort, as I've mentioned to you guys several times and you guys saw. We didn't manage the puck well, we lost our third forward all the time, we gave up too many odd-man rushes, we didn't defend well in zone, we didn't kill well and we didn't get enough saves. It was a combination. When you don't play well in front of your goaltenders, it makes life very hard on them and you can lose confidence, you start compensating and cheating in different ways.
"I do know that if we defend better in front of our goaltenders, they in turn will play well and allow our players to be more confident, too."
This season, Hart will have a new goalie partner in veteran Martin Jones, who signed a one-year, $2 million deal a week and a half ago. Similar to Hart, Jones is looking for a bounce-back season. Hart will also see a revamped defense in front of him with the Flyers' offseason additions of Ryan Ellis, Rasmus Ristolainen and Keith Yandle.
One of the Flyers' defensemen is still due a new contract as Travis Sanheim is a restricted free agent. Last Monday, the Flyers elected for salary arbitration with the 25-year-old bluelinder. The Flyers-Sanheim hearing date is Aug. 26, the last day for arbitration hearings. The two sides can still negotiate and agree to a deal before then.
Per CapFriendly.com, the Flyers have just over $4 million in cap space. Sanheim's previous deal was a two-year, $6.5 million bridge contract.
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